If you travel with children, there’s a good chance some of your vacation is spent searching for that perfect souvenir. For kids, that’s not always a super difficult task. They are usually excited to add yet another key chain, t-shirt, or snow globe to their collection of travel-related trinkets. But what about you? How do you pick that ideal souvenir that will still speak to you years later? The one that will evoke smiles and nudge loose those pleasant travel memories that are buried somewhere in the back of your mind?
Below, we’ve offered a handful of helpful tips and some souvenir dos and don’ts that we hope will assist you in your next round of souvenir shopping. And, remember, it’s never too early to teach your children about smart souvenir purchases, too.
1. Stay away from the generic – While a baseball cap or a set of laminated placemats might be suitable for that trip to Washington D.C., if you’re living the dream of a lifetime in a far-off destination, you should avoid such generic items. You can find those just about anywhere and they’re usually not made in the country from which you are buying the item anyway. If, on the other hand, there’s perhaps a shirt painted by a local artist or a string doll fashioned by the native tribe or clan that lives nearby, consider those for purchase and you’ll go home with a true souvenir of your destination.
2. Is it practical? – A good question to ask yourself, especially if you buy a particularly large or unusual item, is if you’ll have a place to use it or display it when you return home. Works of art, including paintings and sculpture, are particularly nice – especially if done by a local artist – but if you don’t have an empty wall or can’t make a space on your shelves for it, you’ll wind up tucking it away in a closet and never seeing it again. It’s also tough to get large items home and such purchases may result in the need to spend lots of extra money on shipping. Unless you have a specific purpose in mind for your large souvenir, stick to smaller items that will most likely fit in your bag. Even if you have to ship them, it’ll cost less to do so.
3. It is unique enough? – Some items you might be tempted to purchase might resemble something you can buy at Pier 1 Imports or other U.S.-based stores that carry items with an international flair. Make sure the items you choose are unique and unlike anything you can buy at home. Again, pieces my local artisans are often a good choice, especially if you can actually watch the artisan making them. (That’ll assure you that the items aren’t mass-produced.)
4. Consider the memories – The best items are those that make you smile when you look at them. That happens not because the item is pretty or unusual but because it reminds you of a particularly memorable or special event or occasion during your vacation. For example, if your soon-to-be spouse proposed to you on a gondola in Venice, by all means by a gondola charm for your bracelet or a silly gondolier’s hat for your love. Or perhaps your little one rode his first carousel at Tivoli Park. Then buy an artists’ rendering of that famous carousel. The possibilities are endless.
5. Don’t buy the first thing you see – We bet you’re always telling your kids to look around a bit before deciding on a souvenir item, but adults are guilty of the same mistake. If you have the luxury of spending more than a few hours in a particular location, remember that you’ll no doubt see lots of things you’ll want to bring home. Jot down where you saw each item and, if it’s practical, look at the list at the end of your stay in that particular destination and return to the chosen spot to purchase that special item.
6. Don’t forget postcards – In Europe, there are a number of places where photo taking is not permitted. So you don’t have to rely on your memory when you describe the location to your friends and family at home, buy postcards of those places where you can’t use your camera. Postcards are wonderful souvenirs and last forever if cared for properly. You can keep them in an album or a scrapbook or even make a collage of your favorites.